Perfect drink; Near Perfect Game?

After a session of unbelievably unproductive writing/blogging last night, I stopped in at my neighborhood upscale bar and had perhaps the worst Old Fashioned I ever paid $7.50 for. Chilled water (a lot of it) dispensed from a shaker into what looked like a martini glass without the stem. No ice. Some muddled fruit in the bottom of the glass. I think there was a drop of bourbon. Maybe it was rye. It was hard to tell through the shaken, chilled liquid leftover from a Delmonte mixed fruit cup that I was sipping.

Whenever I order one of these and the bartender says “sure,” and then I see two bartenders huddled over their black-covered drinks book, I know I’m in trouble. It’s only one of the six basic drinks in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. I want to flag them down and replace my order with a Budweiser, or anything other than what they are about to attempt to pour, really.

So tonight, before a night of somewhat more productive writing/blogging (well, at least piling up my “drafts” folder), I stopped in another upscale bar (more of a restaurant, really) in a different but nearby neighborhood, and had perhaps the best Old Fashioned I ever had in a bar before. For $5.50. The bottom of the glass wasn’t a mashed fruit cocktail (a split cherry and a bare sliver of orange, which is how it should be — not, God forbid, a giant orange wedge). Good proportion of ice. Served in an Old Fashioned glass (the glass, after all, is named after the drink, something they perhaps missed in Pub No. 1; or maybe it’s me). Choice of bourbon (I went for Knob Creek), with just the right amount of booze to walk you up to the edge of putting you on your ass, but not over. Perfect. Don Draper would be pleased.

Of course, naturally, there was no TV, which I prefer in my bars, generally (not because I don’t like TVs, just that they normally show the worst thing they can find at the time, namely a Yankee or college football game, or the local 24-hour news channel, typically headlined by cat-stuck-in-tree stories, but I’m digressing). So of course I missed the end of Roy Halladay throwing only the second no-hitter in post-season history. But as a recently minted Mets fan, that would’ve been salt in the wound (though I always liked Halladay with the Blue Jays), and I was enjoying my drink. So I had that going for me. Which was nice.

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Crinkle cuts

I love the environment. I truly believe we’re not doing enough to stop pollution, wean ourselves off fossil fuels, eat food that is grown organically (and impacts the soil less), use products that don’t release toxic red sludge across Hungary, and generally not throw empty fast food cups of soda on the sidewalk, or your empty pack of cigarettes out of your driver’s side window (I’m talking to you, Mr. Buzzy’s Taxi man).

And I have mixed feelings about the end of the noisily, crinkly, eco-friendly Sun Chips bag. True, as one commenter said, a little noise to help the environment is hardly a bad trade. That said, why couldn’t the Sun Chips Corp., Inc., put more effort into producing a bag that met (many) consumers with the appeal of nails on a chalkboard?

Hypocrite, perhaps? Me? Guilty as charged.

I’m not against eco-friendly packaging. In fact, it drives me nuts when I order something online and it comes inside a box, inside a semi-hard plastic thing that requires a Dremel diamond wheel to open, inside another box, knotted with those plastic twist ties secured against that plastic piece with the holes in it that look like the sticks from those homemade ice pops we had when we were kids. (Digression: I used those plastic molds to make ice pops with pickle juice once, and threw up after trying one.) Why can’t companies use “frustration-free packaging” with its attendant environmental friendly angle, to boot?

But what was it about the Sun Chips bags that made them so damn noisy? I find it hard to believe that a brown paper lunch bag is any less biodegradable — why couldn’t they make the Sun Chips bags out of that shit? Or deli wrap, dammit? Perhaps my knowledge of molecular plastic packaging is limited, so I don’t know if this is the equivalent of Steven Wright asking why can’t they make airplanes out of the same stuff they use to make those black box flight data recorders, but I digress.

Was this an effort that was set up to fail? Or are biodegradable chip bags inherently as noisy as the Nazgûl in flight?


Musings upon the death of the Cheez Doodles creator

Someone needs to erect a big, puffy, orange statue in Central Park in honor of Morrie Yohai.

As the New York Daily News put it Monday morning: “Morrie Yohai, who died of cancer at age 90 last week, was a mystic, a World War II Marine pilot and a philanthropist. But he’ll probably be remembered most as the creator of the Cheez Doodle.”

I’m all for eating right and healthy and organic and local, but sometimes I think, well, I’ll just go to hell — I love my Cheetos, Cheez-Its, creamsicles (at my going-away party upon leaving my last job, my co-workers laid out a spread comprised solely of orange-colored food), and yes, Cheez Doodles. Hypocrite? Guilty as charged. Check out this editorial, also from the Daily News:

“Cheez Doodles, those tasty, neon-orange puffs, are most certainly not organic. Nor are they made in cast-iron kettles, according to artisanal methods. Nor are they sold at greenmarkets by upstate farmers. Nor do they contain cancer-fighting antioxidants.

“But they brought cheese to millions of fingers – and joy to plenty of mouths, if not waistlines – thanks to Morrie Yohai, born in Harlem in 1920 and reared in the Bronx, the son of Jewish immigrants from Turkey.”

I’m thankful I’m as healthy as I am, with the steady diet of junk food I was raised on, and still indulge in (usually at work, when I’m on deadline, or late at night, when I’m dealing with writer’s block, er, procrastination). I’m at about the correct weight for my height. Perhaps it’s my rapid metabolism, no doubt spurred by four to five cups of coffee a day.

As my sister commented on my Facebook profile, yeah, right, so it was Cheez Doodles that were Morrie’s secret to living until 90? Maybe. Maybe it will be mine too. That, and junk snacks, and coffee.

A food-related digression: My mother had a rule about breakfast cereals: Nothing with marshmallows. Everything else was OK (which essentially translated into us eating as much sugary cereal at breakfast as we wanted, so long as they contained no evidently noxious marshmallows).

Once a month, our grandparents baby-sat us on a weekend overnight in their apartment in Yonkers (complete with plastic on the couches). Our grandfather would take us out in his Buick (I sometimes got to drive with him in his Gremlin, which smelled of his pipe tobacco, though I don’t think there was room in that tiny P.O.S. for my sister, younger than me) to pick up Grandma from her part-time job at Alexander’s department store.

Then it was off to a pizza dinner (sometimes it was The Ground Round, with silent Our Gang and Abbott and Costello films — literally films — projected on the screen in the dining room and baskets of salty popcorn and peanuts in the shell at every table). Dinner was followed by a trip to Child World toy store (with the Peter Panda mascot) and Waldbaum’s supermarket (yes, we were spoiled rotten by our grandparents).

To top it off, at the precocious ages of 10 and 7, perhaps younger, we’d assure Grandma that, yes, of course our mom allowed us to eat Lucky Charms, Boo-Berry, or whatever other heavenly marshmallow-laden cereal we could hungrily toss into the shopping car. We would happily gorge ourselves on the stuff the next morning, with cat-that-ate-the-canary smiles crinkling across our faces at the breakfast table when mom and dad would come by to pick us up.

If they made Cheez Doodles cereal, we would have had Grandma buy it, too.

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Local-washing food and sportswriting

McDonald’s recently launched a local TV commercial around these parts (h/t All Over Albany). Yep, multi-national Mickey D’s name-dropped a bunch of Albany-isms (some of which The Locals don’t actually or frequently use) into a spot in a bid to put a local face on the Golden Arches.

I suppose it should be a compliment that parochial Small-bany rated a commercial geared directly toward its decidedly Single-A market. But a comment about “local-washing” in the All Over Albany blog got me thinking about the phenomenon.

The “Buy Local” movement has had some positive impacts, even beyond the obvious growth of the excellent farmer’s markets we have in upstate New York. I like that regional chain supermarket Hannaford sells some local produce from farms in a few-county radius here, even if the offerings are limited to one cart in a several-thousand-square-foot store. But they position the offering as you come into the produce section and label it with the farm it came from. Bully for them. It’s a good idea, and a smart idea. It appeals to my 100-Mile Food sensibilities, even if I don’t come close to fully practicing that.

But what about Starbucks re-naming one of its Seattle stores as “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea” to whitewash some corporate stain? What about the execrable Gannett Corporation’s deceptively named ShopLocal™ Web site? (h/t Forbes). Frito-Lay ads in Florida? Local-washing efforts by Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Citgo and Hellmann’s? Does at least some of what Wal-mart and other supermarkets do (in selling local produce) redeem themselves in the same way that Hannaford does in my mind (though Hannaford’s superior-for-a-chain organic section, including its own house-brand, gives it a bump in my book, and no, I’m no flack for them, I just like their store; but am I biased because I’m a fan?). And, as Elisabeth Eaves writes in Forbes, did the “Localvores” bring this onto themselves?

I have mixed feelings about this. Not about the McDonald’s commercial, but about the full ethos of buying local. I support that philosophy wholeheartedly, but I worry about the dogma of supporting that ethos to the exclusion of all other approaches.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that the chains do actually hire local people, which Eaves notes — yes, I agree that they do create jobs. On the flip side, those jobs often pay poorly, come with limited or no health insurance, send most (if not all) of the local franchise’s profits out of the area and back to the corporate headquarters, are situated in a building that often has no architectural relationship to long-standing neighboring structures (except to other chain places in a sea of urban sprawl, and this in the face of typically weak zoning laws), and quite possibly replaced jobs in locally owned businesses (not franchises) to begin with.

On the other hand, in these strained economic days, if I’m not eating PB&J for lunch (again) my lunch budget is $3 — enough for two items off McDonald’s Dollar Menu and a buck coffee, provided I can scrounge up enough change in between my car seats to cover the sales tax. Plus, we took Junior to the place once and he referred to it as “Old McDonald’s.” In fact, we tried Wendy’s a few weeks later, and eager to avoid him becoming brand-brainwashed, we called Dave Thomas’ place Old McDonald’s, too.

(Aside: At once point I had attempted the Neil Pollack approach in Alternadad and tried to flip branding on its ear by telling Junior that, whenever he saw the Golden Arches, it signaled a building that sold yucky food. That didn’t last long once we had a hungry 3-year-old suddenly awake on a road trip and the only thing open on a Thruway rest stop was Mickey D’s. But I digress.)

In the end, it’s a fine line. Hannaford’s approach seems to be the right one, though of course, I’d like to see even more local offerings there. But McDonald’s approach seems more sneaky, more insidious somehow.

It’s not entirely dissimilar from what ESPN is doing with ESPNChicago.com, ESPNBoston.com, ESPNDallas.com and (God help us) ESPNNewYork.com. (Though ESPNScranton.com still seems to be available.)

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New Generation in the Senate (and Eat Local, too)

Kirsten Gillibrand officially became New York’s junior senator on Tuesday, and, at age 42, she’s the nation’s youngest. As JenX notes in her blog, there are six U.S. senators from Generation X.

Sen. Gillibrand is part of “a new generation of leadership,” as Governor David Paterson said in appointing her last Friday. He was talking about bridging New York’s upstate-downstate divide and perhaps was speaking extemporaneously.

But his comment highlights the rise of a new generation of leadership in this country, leadership that brings with it a pragmatic approach of considering ideas from both sides of the aisle. Generation X’ers (even with their previously and perhaps once again conservative leanings) and especially Millennials embrace this in a way that Boomers first embraced dogmatically idealistic notions as youth before selling out (whether for survival or greed, depending on your point of view) when they began to assume the leadership of the nation.

Sen. John McCain, Obama’s former rival for the presidency, has said “the American people are tired of the bitter partisanship” (at least, the Silent Generation senator must have felt that way until he backtracked on his earlier indication and opposed the confirmation of the new treasury secretary). This is a mantra and approach the new President has used time and again.

Gillibrand seems to get this, and seems to understand this beyond the old triangulation politics of Boomer President Bill Clinton. Just look at her politics:

Pro-choice. Pro-Environment. Pro-Gay Marriage. High marks from the ACLU and the Children’s Defense Fund. But she supports guns, held a hard-line on immigration, and voted against the bailout last fall.

Beyond these points, most impressively is that she is a New York politician who is pro-farmer. On Tuesday, she nabbed seats on the Senate’s Agriculture and Environment Committees (among others).

Downstate types wringing their hands over her appointment may blow this off as merely cow concerns, but if my fellow progressives from the City are serious about the Local Food Movement and Eating Local (to say nothing about supporting and eating organically, and though they’re not the same thing, we can support both approaches), then Gillibrand is a great pick in my book as the new senator from New York State.

If Eating Local and/or Eating Organically is merely a food fad to you, then you’re a hipster disgrace to meat-eating progressives like myself (and shit, you’re an insult to vegetarian and vegan liberals, too).

In the House, Gillibrand supported country-of-origin labeling for meat sold in supermarkets, and help for farmers converting traditional operations to organic farms.

The farm and food policy of this nation is killing two generations of children through the slow death of obesity, diabetes, and whatever toxins remain unregulated by the FDA but wind up in our food. It is leading to their enslavement to a broken health-insurance system and their ultimate untimely deaths. It’s an issue that Big Business would apparently rather sweep under the rug and debunk. But it is also a small-business issue, with local farms drying up and imported food coming over from less-than-well-regulated overseas nations. This is killing people.

Based on her support of local farmers, I am willing to give Gillibrand a chance to fight and change America’s food policies. I hope the foodies downstate remember this.

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Whiskey and orange juice bath

This is why I love history…

Poking around the White House.gov Web site and I came upon a this tidbit while reading about the White House’s history:

In 1829, a horde of 20,000 Inaugural callers forced President Andrew Jackson to flee to the safety of a hotel while, on the lawn, aides filled washtubs with orange juice and whiskey to lure the mob out of the mud-tracked White House.

I had heard the story about a mob of Jackson’s supporters trashing the White House after his inauguration, but the piece about the orange juice- and whiskey-filled bathtubs is new to me. Hopefully, they weren’t mixed in the same tub — either the celebrators or the whiskey and orange juice, that is.

I also love that this story appears on the President’s own Web site.


Healthy food stuff

I like food. And I like to eat. So here’s one lonely vote in favor of changing the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Food.

Contemplate Nicholas D. Kristoff’s column about the need for a change in food policy in America, which will lead to a healthier America that pays less for health-care related costs in the future, while pissing off the Farm Lobby (but not farmers — the remaining small-town variety would stand to benefit from this change; not so-much the industrial farms).

“We’re subsidizing the least healthy calories in the supermarket — high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soy oil, and we’re doing very little for farmers trying to grow real food,” notes Michael Pollan, author of such books as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.”

and

Modern confinement operations are less like farms than like meat assembly lines. They are dazzlingly efficient in some ways, but they use vast amounts of grain, as well as low-level antibiotics to reduce infections — and the result is a public health threat from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Hopefully, the President-elect, who has shown a sensitivity to the policy connections between food and health, will heed this call.